The Role of the Chief Human Resources Officer in the Boardroom

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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

The Role of the Chief Human Resources Officer in the Boardroom

A Corporate HR Officer (CHRO) used to be relatively unimportant in terms of influencing decision-making compared to other C-suite functions ( such as the CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CTO, and CMO), mainly focusing on administrative tasks as establishing compensation plans. Since the past decades, however, they have gained importance: often they are reporting directly to the CEO and as such they can be said to be one of the CEOs key advisors. Their growing importance has resulted in a change in the requirements for new CHROs. A high level of leadership skills and strategy implementation skills are nowadays required.
Filler and Ulrich researched the role of the CHRO within the C-suite and report some surprising observations.
  1. RELATIVELY HIGH SALARIES: while the CEO and the COO naturally remain the jobs with the first and second-highest salary respectively, CHROs took the third place. According to Ulrich, these high salaries are needed because great CHROs are difficult to find.
  2. SIMILAR TRAITS AS CEOS: The authors made an assessment of the prevalence of several leadership traits among the members within the C-suite. The results were surprising: again the COO shared the most traits with those of the CEO, but the CHRO took the second place in terms of similar leadership traits with the CEO.
Of course, any CHRO must be able to show capabilities in a set of skills that are important for being a top leader. Filler and Ulrich therefore recommend that organizations consider their CHROs when searching for a new CEO. The experiences of the CHRO increase the likelihood of succeeding at the tasks of a CEO.
⇒ Do you agree HR officers should be considered more often as a potential successor of the CEO?
Ulrich, D. and E. Filler ”CEOs and CHROs: Crucial Allies and Potential Successors” Korn Ferry Institute 2014.
Ulrich, D. and E. Filler, "Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs", HBR December 2014.

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